Tag: far right
Charlie Kirk

Rupert Murdoch, Charlie Kirk And Gen Z's Rejection Of The Far Right

Rupert Murdoch announced on September 21 that he will be stepping down as chairman of Fox Corp. and News Corp. after a 70-year career poisoning global media with right-wing lies and hate. Fox is now in the hands of Lachlan Murdoch, whose track record at the company indicates he is even more grimly ideological than his father, serving as the main force backing Tucker Carlson’s on-air white supremacy and pushing the network to support Donald Trump’s 2020 election lies despite their financial consequences.

While Rupert Murdoch repeatedly made clear in his announcement that he does not intend to take his thumb entirely off the scale of his outlets, the question of who will now rise to prominence in the right-wing media ecosystem lingers. In just the last few years, the movement’s founding fathers, including Roger Ailes, Rupert Murdoch, and Rush Limbaugh, have died or stepped away, leaving conservative media without a center of gravity. Lachlan Murdoch and other rising right-wing media figures are jockeying to lead the hate and misinformation machine into the next generation.

One of these figures is Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk.

Since first appearing on the scene in 2012, when he had just barely graduated from high school, Kirk has built TPUSA into a reported $80 million media empire. The organization hosts numerous shows and has millions of followers across multiple social media platforms. Kirk himself is a Salem Radio host whose nationally syndicated program is broadcast in Limbaugh’s old time slot.

TPUSA is purportedly an organization representing the next generation of conservative activists, with Kirk as their leading voice. But there is scant evidence that the group has a genuine connection with Gen Z, whose social and political attitudes are overwhelmingly liberal. An October 2021 internal presentation obtained by The Verge stated that only 15 percent of Turning Point’s Instagram audience is actually student-aged. As the organization’s own documentation states: “The content that is going out right now is completely missing our target audience.” (TPUSA told The Verge that “the presentations in question contain multiple inaccuracies and erroneous data.”)

As the original shapers of right-wing media fade into history, Kirk seemingly hopes to capture the attention of the next generation and raise his own profile in the conservative movement by leaning into increasingly hardcore far-right positions. On the very same day that Murdoch announced he was stepping down, Kirk took to his radio show and launched into a vile, racist attack on migrants on the southern border, declaring that a “foreign invasion” of “fighting-age young males who will end up raping many of your daughters.”

He also specifically invoked and validated the white supremacist “great replacement” conspiracy theory.

“Obviously the Democrat Party supports this because of power,” Kirk declared. “They smear us and slander us when we bring up the great replacement. The Castro brothers themselves have said that was the reason.”

“You should be at fever-pitch anger,” he concluded.

Kirk is only reflecting the lasting influence of Tucker Carlson, who brought the great replacement conspiracy theory to mainstream conservative audiences with the full backing of Lachlan Murdoch, who is now the sole chair of his family’s global media empire.

But the Charlie Kirk of today would be unrecognizable to who he was yesterday. In his comprehensive history of the first 10 years of TPUSA, University of North Georgia rhetoric professor Matthew Boedy notes that as the organization has grown, Kirk has expressed increasingly extreme views, including on the topic of immigration.

In 2019, Kirk came under attack by the white nationalist “groyper” movement after he stated that “highly-educated immigrants should get ‘a green card’ stapled to their U.S. college diplomas.” This kicked off the so-called “groyper wars” in which followers of neo-Nazi Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes repeatedly confronted Kirk with racist and antisemitic dog whistles while he was on a speaking tour. Kirk ultimately penned an apologia on American Greatness, the same far-right blog that had launched the initial criticism.

Just recently, Fuentes bragged that his followers had infiltrated Turning Point USA and his one-time target had now adopted his messaging.

“I think in 2023, Charlie Kirk, all these others, they sound way more like me, today, than they sound like themselves four years ago,” Fuentes said, before launching into an attack on Jewish people.

Kirk has also radicalized significantly against LGBTQ people.

In 2019, he posted a video of an exchange with an audience member labeled “CHARLIE KIRK TAKES DOWN ANTI-GAY EXTREMIST.” In the video, the audience member condemned Kirk for accepting gay people in the conservative movement. Kirk defended himself and gay conservatives, asking, “What does what they do in their private life concern you so much?” and adding that if you do not embrace and love all people as Jesus did, “then you, sir, are not a conservative.”

As Boedy points out, a TPUSA chapter guide from 2017 specifically instructs participants: “no talk about abortion, gay marriage, etc.”

Since then, Kirk has become one of the most extreme voices singling out LGBTQ people for violence across the right-wing media.

  • In August, Kirk said that trans people who join fraternities and sororities should “be made fun of so much, bullied so much, crying so much, they would get themselves out.”
  • Kirk has referred to trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney with an anti-trans slur on multiple occasions.
  • Kirk called LGBTQ identification a “social contagion.”
  • During 2023’s Pride Month, Kirk vowed to remember “all the gay flag stuff” at Starbucks after several stores caved to right-wing pressure to take down Pride decorations.
  • On the first day of Pride Month, Kirk tweeted, “Pride is a sin.”
  • Kirk has argued that “monogamous heterosexual marriage should be a prerequisite to adoption.”
  • In 2022, Kirk warned that gay people “are not happy just having marriage. Instead, they now want to corrupt your children.”

But perhaps Kirk’s biggest transformation has been on the role of religion.

Boedy tracks this transformation masterfully. As TPUSA was getting off the ground, Kirk criticized the conservative movement of decades past for evangelizing too much, claimed to promote right-wing values “through a secular worldview,” and once told an audience that “he saw his job as the face of TPUSA as ‘no different than’ being a plumber or electrician, who likely don’t tell everyone they met about their religion.”

In 2021, Kirk launched the TPUSA Faith initiative, which he has used as a platform to increasingly lean into Christian nationalism. Since then, TPUSA Faith launched Freedom Life Church, a network of TPUSA-aligned congregations with the expressed goal “to change the trajectory of our nation by restoring America's biblical values.”

In 2022, he declared, “There is no separation of church and state.”

Kirk has also falsely claimed that the Founding Fathers based our system of government on the Book of Genesis, and speaks of the country as engaged in a “spiritual battle.”

The Murdochs and Fox News are also directly responsible for helping Kirk launch his career. As TPUSA was just getting off the ground, Kirk started becoming a semi-regular guest on Fox News as the youthful face of opposing the Obama presidency, often hosted by Neil Cavuto. Kirk has appeared at least 235 times on weekday Fox shows since 2018, though his last appearance was May 18, 2023, having since seemingly been blacklisted from the network.

Like the rest of us, Charlie Kirk is getting older, but high school and college students are staying the same age. Conservative media across the board face an uphill battle if they want to win over Gen Z. So far, Kirk’s strategic approach to inheriting the house that Rupert (and Rush) built has been to amplify the extremist fringes.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Ken Paxton

Driven By Bribery And Bias, Paxton Acquittal Bitterly Splits Texas Republicans

On Saturday, September 16, far-right Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was acquitted on 16 articles of impeachment in the Texas Senate. Republicans have majorities in both branches of the Texas Legislature, but while he was indicted in the Texas House of Representatives, he was found "not guilty" during his trial in the Senate.

But Washington Post opinion writer Karen Tumulty, in her September 18 column, stresses that the bitter, ugly fight between pro-Paxton Republicans and anti-Paxton Republicans (including "Bush Republicans") is just beginning in Texas.

Paxton's attorney Tony Buzbee angrily declared, "Let it be known. Let it be clear now: the Bush era in Texas ends today" — a comment Tumulty describes as a "warning shot" and a "naked appeal to the tribalism that has reshaped the once-rational GOP in Texas."

"That the fix was in for the attorney general in the Senate probably should have been apparent back in July," Tumulty explains. "That's when a campaign finance report revealed that a pro-Paxton political action committee, known as the Defend Texas Liberty PAC, had donated $1 million and made an additional $2 million loan to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who would preside over the impeachment trial."

Tumulty adds, "Yes, you read that right: The person acting as judge took $3 million from the defendant's deep-pocketed allies. Was it any wonder that only two Republicans in the Senate, where the lieutenant governor serves as president of the chamber, voted to convict?"

The columnist notes that "Paxton's far-right forces are now promising all-out warfare on the Republican House members — starting with Speaker Dade Phelan — who tried to remove the attorney general from office."

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Lauren Boebert

Unruly Lauren Boebert Booted From Denver Theatre Performance

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) was kicked out of a theater last weekend, The Denver Post's John Aguilar reports.

Boebert was "escorted out of a Sunday night performance" of Beetlejuice after she was caught "vaping, singing, recording, and 'causing a disturbance,'" Aguilar writes.

"In an incident report shared with The Denver Post on Tuesday afternoon, officials with Denver Arts & Venues wrote that two patrons were asked to leave the city-owned Buell Theatre during the performance of the touring Broadway show," Aguilar reveals. "They previously were issued a warning during the intermission regarding behavior that prompted three complaints from other theatergoers, the report says."

Aguilar continues, "The report does not name Boebert as one of the patrons or identify the other person. But her campaign office — while disputing the behavior alleged — confirmed that she was escorted from the Buell on Sunday night during the Beetlejuice show. The incident report states that after receiving the intermission warning, about five minutes into the second act security officials received 'another complaint about the patrons being loud and at the time (they) were recording.' Taking pictures or recording is not permitted at shows."

One usher recalled to the Post, per Aguilar, "They told me they would not leave. I told them that they need to leave the theater and if they do not, they will be trespassing. The patrons said they would not leave. I told them I would (be) going to get Denver Police. They said go get them."

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Ginni And Clarence

How Ginni Thomas And Leonard Leo Used Dark Money To Build The Far Right

Politico’s Heidi Pryzybyla has new reporting that delves deep into the dark money network judicial activist Leonard Leo has constructed, shining a light on the most pernicious corner of it: his collusion with Supreme Court spouse Ginni Thomas.

There’s a lot of meat in this new report, but the timeline Pryzybyla lays out is the most instructive—and damning—evidence of Leo’s scheme to remake the judiciary and overturn long-standing legal precedents on abortion, affirmative action, and many other issues. He shows how he used Thomas as his “in” to the Supreme Court, turning the court into his tool with the billions he has amassed from anonymous donors. It also demonstrates the extent to which the Thomases are funded by the conservative network.

The timeline is critical, opening up potential new avenues of investigation for Congress and law enforcement. In September 2009, the court’s conservative majority decided to expand the scope of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, from determining whether the anti-Hillary Clinton documentary created by the nonprofit Citizens United violated campaign finance laws to whether they should use it to overturn previous decisions approving campaign finance laws. In November 2009, Cleta Mitchell—yes, Big Lie lawyer Cleta Mitchell—filed paperwork with the IRS to create a new nonprofit: Liberty Central Inc.

Liberty Central was the prototype organization created by the eventual Supreme Court decision, which was handed down in January 2010. It declared that corporations and nonprofits can spend unlimited amounts on political campaigns, using unlimited funds from unnamed donors: dark money.

In preparation for that decision, in December 2009 Ginni Thomas filed the paperwork incorporating Liberty Central in Virginia, with Leo as co-director. They had $500,000 in seed money from Harlan Crow, the megadonor who has also provided Clarence and Ginni Thomas with lavish gifts. The group had all the pieces in place to hit the ground running the minute the decision was handed down.

“Ginni really wanted to build an organization and be a movement leader,” one of Politico’s sources said. “Leonard [Leo] was going to be the conduit of that.” But Ginni Thomas proved to be a liability for the group, taking a far too public and political role. It came to a head in October, 2010 when Ginni Thomas made headlines with a telephone call to Anita Hill, demanding that Hill apologize for the sexual harassment allegations she raised against Clarence Thomas during his confirmation.

In November 2010, reports circulated that Ginni Thomas was going to step down from her leadership role, though Leo issued a denial. At the same time, Ginni Thomas sought and received expedited approval for incorporating a consulting business. That business was Liberty Consulting. Simultaneously, Leo reactivated one of his old organizations, the dormant Judicial Education Project. Leo then began using JEP to direct contracts to pay Ginni Thomas an amount similar to what she had earned at Liberty Central, which was as much as $100,000 between June 2011 and June 2012.

Earlier this year, the Washington Postreported that in January 2012, Leo ordered GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway to bill the JEP $25,000 and then use the funds to “give” Ginni Thomas “another $25K,” emphasizing that the paperwork should have “[n]o mention of Ginni, of course.”

Since 2010, the JEP has spent “at least $25 million” on grants and contracts, Politico reports. The full amount, and where and to whom all that money has gone, is unclear. “Leo and Thomas did not respond to questions about when the arrangement to pay Thomas began, if it ended and how much she was paid or what type of work she did,” Politico reports.

Subsidizing the Thomases isn’t all the JEP has done. It is staffed and directed by former Thomas clerks, and since it was reactivated in 2010, it has been one of the forces behind challenges to the Affordable Care Act, voting rights, affirmative action, etc. It files amicus briefs for the challenges that are detailed and extensively researched, in essence doing the conservative justices’ homework for them when constructing their decisions, Przybyla reports.

In 2020 JEP became the 85 fund, with a subgroup, The Honest Elections Project. That organization used Trump’s Big Lie of a “stolen” election to amplify claims of voter fraud and state elections corruption, and to push for more voter suppression.

The story has many, many layers beyond the dark money that seems to fund Thomas' family. It delves into some of the offshoots in Leo’s network and its murky relationship with the Supreme Court beyond Thomas, including Justice Samuel Alito and the deceased Justice Antonin Scalia. All of it, though, coalesces on the corruption of the Supreme Court by Leo and his anonymous millionaires and billionaires. That provides even more fodder for the probes currently being conducted into Supreme Court ethics in the Senate and the D.C. attorney general’s inquiry into Leo’s dark money network.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.